Sometimes good things come in small packages. The Little Elm Independent School District in Denton County, currently enrolls nearly 7,400 students in five elementary schools, a K-8 campus, a sixth grade center, a middle school, and one high school. It’s one of the small districts in North Texas, but like most things in our great state, it has “Big Heart.”
Over the years, we have helped a few teachers get their start within the district including Cleota Epps, the Executive Director for Human Resources & Student Services.
Little Elm High School Culinary Arts Program
I recently had the pleasure of attending a luncheon for the North Central Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators at Little Elm High School. What made this day special is we were served a meal by the school culinary arts class, part of the Career and Technical Education Program within Little Elm.
At the end of our luncheon, the culinary arts instructor was introducing her students and she broke down in tears as she told us how proud she is of the children in her program, that not only started the new campus restaurant, but out of a true sense of compassion, partnered with the Special Education department to start and run a campus food truck, known as tabLE To Go.
What makes this program truly unique is that the CTE students are helping to train Special Needs students, and it has created a strong bond between these two on-campus communities.
An Idea Takes Root In The Community
The tabLE to Go food truck was the brainchild of Little Elm Director of CTE Tony Tipton and Cortney Clover, director for Special Populations for the district.
According to the school district, the idea was birthed “during a mid-winter conference last school year when Clover and Tipton developed the idea of a food trailer that would bring regular learners and Special Populations students together in a culinary arts setting.”
Once the idea was fleshed out a bit, Tipton spread the news. “I told everyone about it without knowing how we were going to pay for it or how it would even work. We were both so excited about this idea,” said Tipton as he addressed the Board members.
According to the district, none of this would have been possible without the help of a budding new partnership between Little Elm ISD and Credit Union of Texas (CUTX).
They have agreed to sponsor the trailer 100% after reviewing a business plan prepared for them by Little Elm High School business and marketing students. “We were beyond excited from the moment we heard about this opportunity,” said Ana Ortiz, Director of Business Development for CUTX.
“It has been hard keeping this hush-hush because this is such a monumental moment that will impact the lives of so many students. It is great to be a part of this legacy,” she said.
CUTX is contributing $31,000, which will cover the entire cost for building the trailer and wrapping it with graphics. CUTX has committed to providing financial support for maintenance and additional new costs. CUTX has also created internships that will benefit LEHS business and marketing students.
A Winning Partnership
This is a great example of how educators from different parts of a school can come together for the greater good and provide a learning opportunity that benefits students from diverse backgrounds. The culinary students win by benefiting not only from hands-on experience in the kitchen, but leadership opportunities in working with the special education students.
Special needs students win by working on prerequisite life skills for success after high school. The community benefits by having a valuable resource for school events, athletic programs and lunches within the community.
Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank.
In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.
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